Planning an off-site event? Here are tips from three destination management companies (DMCs).
• Be prepared to talk about past events, said Bobbie Fakkem, founder and CEO of Events, Etc. in South San Francisco, Calif. Hearing about past events will help DMC staff winnow the list of potential sites. Remembering the past can also prevent future problems, said Carrie Brown, director of programs for Newport Hospitality in Newport, R.I. The red-wine-drinking CEO won’t be amused, for example, if you book another art museum that allows only clear beverages.
• Budget and the quality of an event go hand-in-hand. “Budget, size and availability are relevant,” said Fakkem. Planners must keep in mind who is being entertained and what those guests are accustomed to.
• Goals and priorities are key. “We try to get the meat of what they want,” said Brown. For example, will there be dancing, or is a sitdown dinner followed by awards? What has worked in the past? Just as important, what hasn’t worked? Brown questions planners closely when they bring up events on boats, for example. “They are assuming every single person is going to be happy on a boat,” said Brown. “Make sure it won’t just be half of your group.”
• Who is attending the event? Gender, age and other factors influence choice of venue. For those age 30 to 50, Brown might choose a contemporary setting; for a board of directors who are older, the Newport mansions or the New York Yacht Club might be a better fit. For tech clients, Fakkem keeps the short attention spans of youthful employees in mind. “We have all these young Google and Facebook employees who are bored in five minutes.”
• Numbers are important. In smaller destinations, like Lake Tahoe, there are few venues that can handle large crowds. “We are limited,” said Lisa DeLeon with Destination Tahoe Meetings and Events. “The group has to be large enough to be affordable but small enough to fit.”
• Plan as far in advance as possible. In a resort destination like Lake Tahoe, popular venues are booked early. “Here, you are always competing with weddings,” said DeLeon. “My biggest hint to planners of events in a resort town is to not wait on off-site venues. One of our most popular, Edgewood Country Club, on the lake with great food service, is booked three years out in June and July for weddings.”